Peter Golds: Tommy Flowers is a genuine East Ender who changed the course of history and the war
By Peter Golds
Writing on Remembrance Day, my mind turns to the heroes. One of those was Tommy Flowers, born in 1905 in Abbott Road, Poplar.
He was the son of a bricklayer and, through night school, earned a degree in engineering and went to work for the Post Office.
He was always fascinated by electronic machinery and, before the outbreak of the war, was working on an electronic switching system for telephones.
After 1940 he came to the attention of the code-breaking station at Bletchley Park and was the engineer behind Colossus - the first real computer.
This extraordinary machine was able to read the most secret messages of the German High Command and it has been said that his invention shortened the war by years.
The Official Secrets Act ensured that much of Flowers' work and achievements remained hidden. He was awarded the MBE and £1,000, which scarcely covered the money he spent in the building of Colossus.
He said nothing, even to his family, and returned to the Post Office to continue his work on the development of an electronic telephone exchange and later Ernie, the machine that drew the numbers for Premium Bonds.
As Tower Hamlets seeks City status, Flowers is one of those from our borough whose work genuinely changed history.
■ Peter Golds is Conservative councillor for Blackwall & Cubitt Town